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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Writing Success in 2009

It’s never easy to know what to post on Novel Journey between Christmas and New Years. It is an interesting nook of time where we’re between work and the holidays. Scraps of wrapping paper linger beneath the Christmas tree and holiday light still deck houses with their shimmering, fairy glow. The old year is winding down and a new one is around the corner.

This segment of time usually finds me reflective as I look back over the past year and anticipate the upcoming one. This year, despite the fact I’ve not pitched a single agent and/or editor, attended any writer conferences, or finished a new novel, I consider this my most successful writing year ever.

It started last year about this time when a missionary found it unusual that I defined success at writing by the number of copies a book sold. She laughed and told me I had it all backwards—and challenged me to let go of my definition of success and replace it with a better one.

“But you don’t understand,” I told her . . . and launched into how publishers make an investment in an author, and how limited shelf space is, and how hard it is to stand out . . . and etc, etc.

“I’m not saying you shouldn’t do everything necessary to sell your book,” she replied back, “I’m just saying your definition of success is wrong. Whether you sell one, or one million copies, it doesn’t determine whether or not your book was successful.”

I was flabbergasted.

Suddenly everything needed to be redefined. It became possible that bestsellers might be utterly worthless despite their sales—while obscure, out of copy books might be a mighty light, shining in a dark place.

The thought invaded my life and trickled into every area of this past year. The idea of making my book successful outside of publication and sales took root.

I delved into craft and storytelling, increasing my knowledge and sharpening my skills. I’ve studied types of literature and allowed the themes in my story to mellow and age with patience. I took apart my book, scene by scene and laid them out and learned how to really re-craft this novel. I waited patiently to make sure what I put on earth to write was really in this book.

The process has been amazing and life changing.

For 2009, I’m wishing all of us a successful writing year—one which cannot be affected by declining economics.


  1. A worthwhile goal for us all, Jessica. Thanks. Marcia

  2. Great thoughts! Thanks for sharing.


  3. I had to learn this the hard way: through "failure" to succeed in "acceptable, successful" ways. The missionary was so right. If you're writing to please God, success is a given. It's the mindset that has to change if we only mark success as what the world or the "publishing world" defines. Yes, as you noted, we must make every effort first to determine God has asked us to write and heed His call and then to perfect our craft as best we can, but if we finish our work and present our offering to Him, He will assign it "success", just not always as we think it should be.

  4. Thanks, I needed that today. I've been counting up all the ways I've failed, at least according to the endless checklists and articles on how to get published in today's tight market. Reading those it seems even past published works mean nothing. What counts is that one must do yada, yada, yada.

    Your words remind me what I absolutely know: God calls each one who writes for Him. Otherwise, why would I have this need, this urge, this push(!) to be at the computer all the time? Certainly life would be simpler without it!

    My resolve for the New Year is to be faithful, to hone my craft and to continue to pray the Holy Spirit will give me the words and direct my path. The rest is up to the One who holds the world--and me--in the palm of His loving hand.


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